Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finishing it off in Auckland

Thursday, May 19
North Island

Thursday morning we left Rotorua for our last stop in New Zealand, Auckland. We were both sad the New Zealand part of the trip was nearly over, but we were also looking forward to exploring Hong Kong on our way back to Germany. 

On the way to Auckland we drove through the small town of Tirau. Though the main stretch through town was short and its roadside shops limited, we had to stop when we saw this unique building, and those people who knew Heidi will know why.  

There had recently been a celebration of veterans from the area, and red banners devoted to their remembrance lined the road hanging from the street lamps. 

I stood across the street from this enormous likeness of my dear baby girl and had to laugh. It was strange and a little comforting, though there's no logical reason I can see for the latter. We joked that Heidi was so beloved that upon hearing of her passing, the people of Tirau hurriedly built this monument to her, knowing, of course, that we'd be passing through. The red banner reading, "We'll Always Remember" hanging in front of her only fed that fantasy.

When it was time to get back on the road, I paused a moment to say goodbye to the big white dog of Tirau, and in that, took a small step toward saying the same to her.

When we got to Auckland we were a little tired, a little bummed to already be there, and unsure of what exactly we wanted to do in this city. So since the rest of the trip had been so busy, we took it easy in Auckland. We walked the streets up into the artsy part of town to find dinner, and we strolled around by the docks. Sometimes the best way to see a city is just to walk it and absorb its life, and we were okay with toning it down a bit here.

It turned out Kristin and Matt were in town the same weekend so we met up with them at an Irish pub by the water for some drinks and conversation. Matt is from Auckland, and much of his family still lives there, so they were spending one last week with them before moving to the States to start their married life together.

The next day we checked out and stored our bags, then set out to get one last day in before our late flight to Hong Kong.

Auckland's Sky Tower is probably the city's most recognizable structure. There's a jump you can do from the Sky Tower's top deck and it looked crazy! I wanted to do it at first, plunge toward the city below from this staggering height, but decided against it in the end. I'd already had some amazing adventures on this trip, funds and energy were a little low by that point, and we still had Hong Kong to go.

This was a fun wine bar we came across downtown called The Library. Hey, it was our vacation so we indulged! I loved that the whole place was packed with books so that if you wanted, you could read while you lounged on the cushy, velvety couches with your glass of cabernet.

We stayed a couple hours... 

After a laid back day of strolling and lounging, we met up with Kristin and Matt one more time. The plan was to get dinner together, after which they offered to drive us to the airport, which was great. We drank hard cider, ate yummy food, and laughed at how weird and cool it was to be having dinner with each other and our husbands in New Zealand 10+ years after high school. Who'da thought?

One of the finer points of any trip, in my opinion, is the personal touch brought by sharing time with friends. Our trip to New Zealand was book-ended by hanging out with an old friend and her new husband, two very cool people who added another dimension of enjoyment to an already amazing trip.

We weren't ready to leave when the time came to board the plane, but such is life and most things enjoyable, right? We absolutely loved our time in this incredible place, and though we may never make it back for another go, we can dream. The sense of adventure was only rivaled by the sheer and raw (and varied) beauty of the land and the people we met, and we could not have asked for a better experience. And even though we lost Heidi while on the east coast of the south island, when I think of the town of Kaikoura, instead of sadness I feel gratitude for the love we received there in the wake of our grief.

I'm not sure how this trip could ever be topped. Hong Kong!

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